Anyone who knows me understands that I have what is the opposite of a green thumb (the opposite color to GREEN on the color-wheel is RED, but saying I have a RED THUMB sounds less disastrous than it actually is) I say that when it comes to plants I have the “thumb-of-death”. Which is problematic for one who loves to be surrounded by greenery. In my home the answer is simple, it is filled with silk (AKA: fake) plants and trees. Outside, in the spring and summer, however, I like to live on my “outdoor parlor” (AKA: “lanai”, “porch”) as much as possible, surrounded by REAL plants. If I only need to water them, GREAT…I can do that! So I have a few “greens”.
Once I also purchased a GARDENIA tree. Gardenias were one of my Mom’s favorites, along with roses (which I am too frightened to try growing) and I equate the fragrance with her, and home. So my gardenia sat next to my chair on the porch and the full and shiny, deep-green leaves look beautiful…along with the buds, promises of beautiful blooms.
Except that’s the problem…it’s didn’t bloom.
The buds were there, I followed the directions on water (let the soil get a little dry and then give her a good drink…so my gardener-friend says…and she’ll bloom.) I tried it…didn’t work. So I went back to my gardener-friend, and without really knowing that she was doing it, she taught me a spiritual lesson that I will pass on.
“Where is the gardenia sitting, on your porch?”
“It…er, SHE…is sitting back against the wall.”
“Do you water her regularly but just enough to keep the soil moist?”
“Do you pull the yellow leaves off?”
“Have you used a little plant food or fertilizer, once-a-month?”
“Yes, just once so far.”
“Then it sounds like there’s enough care…just not enough sun.”
Enough care, just not enough sun.
And there is the SPIRITUAL TRUTH wrapped in a PHYSICAL METAPHOR: “Enough care, just not enough Son.”
The “seeds” planted in us, or the seeds we plant in others (given to US by Jesus) like those in your immediate circles (friends, family, acquaintances and enemies) are indeed the food/care that is required for learning and growth – but even that is not enough for any person to realize their full potential and “flower”. In fact all that care and food will only take anyone so far, unless they are introduced to the Son.
A gardenia is defined by her blossoms, her fragrance. She is complete, she is happy. As the complete happiness of an apple tree (or fig tree) realizes it’s full potential and happiness when it produces what it was made to produce. We humans are complete and happy when we become who we are meant/designed to be, but we will only get so far with the right food and care – when we are introduced to the Son, we bloom.
The Greek word for “perfect” (teleios) would be understood, by those who spoke the language in Jesus’ day, as “coming to fullness – maturity – doing exactly what it is meant to do”. We make the error of reading that passage and saying to ourselves, “I will never be without flaw.” Which is how WE read “perfect“…but that’s not what the writer of Matthew, or Jesus meant (Matthew 5:48). They meant…“be who you are supposed to be, in fullness, in maturity…as God is also”
I am happy to do all that I can in my limited way, to bring good food and good care – but the greatest thing any Pastor, or any BELIEVER & FOLLOWER, can do is introduce someone to the Son.